By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large
The only significant development for the Texas State women’s basketball team Wednesday night was simply that it played for the first time this year on its home floor while taking a bow for last year. The actual game didn’t even shape up as a secondary issue, nor did it become one.
The Bobcats trounced an NAIA school, Paul Quinn College from Dallas, 96-60, in a game that wasn’t even that close. The Bobcats bounced out to a 24-12 lead, extended it to 51-19 at halftime and cruised downhill the rest of the way.
Gabriell Mattox led Texas State with 16 points, followed by Brittany Wilson with 12. However, no one on the Texas State roster played more than 23 minutes and 11 different players appeared for 12 minutes or more in a game that was, essentially, a homecoming.
“Our kids are excited to come back to San Marcos,” Texas State coach Suzanne Fox said. “Some of our young kids were able to get significant playing time, so that was important.”
Following Wednesday night’s game, the Texas State athletic department honored the Bobcats for last year’s achievements by unveiling two banners in the Strahan Coliseum rafters. One banner recognizes their regular season Southland Conference championship, while the other commemorates their appearance in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT).
The Bobcats finished last season 21-11 overall and 14-2 in the Southland Conference for the first regular season league title in school history. The Bobcats also won the first postseason game by a Southland Conference team since 1995 with an 84-83 victory against Prairie View A&M in the WNIT.
This year’s team remains a work in progress. The Bobcats return only three letter winners – a 6-foot-1 junior forward Aimee Hilburn, 5-6 junior guard Victoria Davis and 6-2 senior forward Kim Cessna – none of whom averaged double figures in scoring last season. Another returning senior, 5-9 senior forward Ashley Cole, averaged 11.4 points last year.
None of the team’s five newcomers has taken a start this year. Fox has divided the starts between the four most prolific returning seniors, along with Mattox, a 5-11 sophomore, and 5-11 senior Ryann Bradford.
The Bobcats are 3-4 as they prepare for the Southland Conference season, which begins on Jan. 10 with a home game against Texas-Arlington. Before lacing them up against Paul Quinn, they played teams from the Missouri Valley (Drake), the Big Ten (Iowa), the Patriot League (Navy), the Northeast (Long Island), the WAC (Utah State), and Conference-USA (Texas-El Paso).
There’s much more to be understood about this team from looking at those six games than from Wednesday’s home opener. Those first six opponents for Texas State hold a combined 22-19 record. Considering the Big Ten, Missouri Valley, the WAC and Conference-USA are almost certainly multiple-bid leagues to the NCAA Tournament and the Texas State played them all away from home, the local five is off to a respectable enough start.
More to the point, said Fox, the Bobcats have faced a variety of styles and attributes in the run-up to the Southland Conference season. By then, they also will have played at Texas A&M and Baylor, two Big 12 teams. Texas A&M is ranked fifth nationally in the Associated Press media poll and fourth in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll, while Baylor is ranked tenth in both polls.
For what it’s worth, the most recent Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) on www.realtimerpi.com puts Texas State at No. 208 out of 342 Division I teams, with the 217th toughest schedule. That same ranking shows Iowa (No. 38) as the best team Texas State has played so far, while it shows Texas A&M at No. 4 and Baylor at No. 13.
“We’ve played tall teams, we’ve played athletic teams, we’ve played speed teams,” Fox said. “We’re trying to get them those experiences to show them the diversity of styles we’ll play in the Southland Conference. We don’t have a lot of kids with significant Division I minutes. We’ve won games, and we’ve had games where we were close.”
Soon enough, in about a month, the games will become more important. The Bobcats will start working through the Southland Conference in preparation for the league tourmament, which is their only path to the NCAA Tournament.
“We have to be ready for that,” Fox said. “We’re in a one-bid league.”Email | Print